Man on Wire: What You Need to Know about Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit is the subject of James Marsh's new, exciting documentary, “Man on Wire” (See Review).

Petit was born in France, but not of the circus. At an early age he discovered magic and juggling. At 16, he took his first steps on the wire. He learned everything by himself as he was being expelled from five different schools. He became adept at equitation, fencing, carpentry, rock-climbing and drawing; he also studied the art of bullfighting.

Aided by his passion while performing throughout Europe, Russia, Australia and the United States, he taught himself Spanish, German, Russian and English. He also developed a keen appreciation of architecture and engineering.

On the sidewalks of Paris, he created his street persona: wild, witty and silenta character that will never leave himforever beguiling all who see him. With his wire, he has extended the boundaries of theater, music, writing, poetry, drawing and filmmaking to become an inimitable high wire artist.

Petit gives lectures and workshops on a variety of topics internationally. He is single-handedly building a barn in the Catskills using the methods and tools of 18th century timber framers. His latest book, THE ART OF THE PICKPOCKET, was recently published in France.

Petits book, TO REACH THE CLOUDS, which recounts the adventure of his illegal high wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center was adapted for the stage by the Nottingham Repertory in the UK.

Among the friends who have associated themselves with some of his projects are such diverse artists as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Werner Herzog, Annie Liebovitz, Milos Forman, Volker Schlndorff, Twyla Tharp, Peter Beard, Marcel Marceau, Paul Auster, Paul Winter, Debra Winger, Robin Williams and Sting. For the past 30 years, he has lived in New York City where he is an Artist-In-Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divinethe largest gothic cathedral in the world. He was presented with the prestigious James Parks Morton Interfaith Award, and was recently made Chevalier des Arts & des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

Major High Wire Performances

1971 VALLAURIS (France) Performance for Picasso's 90th birthday
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL (Paris) Clandestine
1973 SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE (Australia) Clandestine
1974 WORLD TRADE CENTER (New York City) Clandestine
CENTRAL PARK (New York City) Inclined walk over Belvedere Lake
LAON CATHEDRAL (France) Crossing between the two spires for an international television special
1975 LOUISIANA SUPERDOME (New Orleans) Walk for the opening of the largest covered stadium in the world
1982 CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE (New York City) Walk celebrating renewal of the cathedral's construction following a 40-year hiatus
CONCERT IN THE SKY* (Denver) High wire play for the opening of the World Theater Festival
1983 SKYSONG* (New York) High wire play for the opening of the SUNY
Arts Festival
BEAUBOURG/GEORGES POMPIDOU CENTER (Paris) Ascension
1984 CORDE RAIDE-PIANO VOLANT* (Paris) High wire play with rock singer Jacques Higelin
PARIS OPERA (Paris) High wire improvisation with opera singer Margarita Zimmermann
MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK (New York City) High wire performance for the opening of “Daring New York” exhibit
1986 ASCENT* (New York City) Concert for grand piano and high wire on an inclined cable over the nave of the Cathedral St. John the Divine
LINCOLN CENTER* (New York City) High wire performance for the reopening of the Statue of Liberty
1987 WALKING THE HARP/A BRIDGE FOR PEACE* (Jerusalem) High wire performance on an inclined cable linking the Jewish and Arab quarters for opening of the Israel Festival under the auspices of Mayor Teddy Kollek
1987 MOONDANCER* (Oregon) High wire opera for the opening of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts
1987 GRAND CENTRAL DANCES* (New York City) High wire choreography above the concourse of Grand Central Station
1988 HOUSE OF THE DEAD (Paris) Creation of the role of the eagle in the Dostoevski opera directed by Volker Schlndorff
1989 TOUR ET FIL* (Paris) Spectacular walkfor an audience of 250,000on an inclined 700 meter cable linking the Palais de Chaillot with the second story of the Eiffel Tower commemorating the French Bicentennial and the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen under the auspices of Mayor Jacques Chirac
1990 AMERICAN OUVERTURE* (Paris) High wire play for the ground-breaking ceremony of the new American Center
TOKYO WALK* (Japan) Japan's first high wire performance to celebrate the opening of the Plaza Mikado building in Akasaka
1991 VIENNALEWALK* (Austria) High wire performance evoking the history of cinema for the opening of the Vienna International Film Festival under the direction of Werner Herzog
1992 NAMUR* (Belgium) Inclined walk to the Citadel of Vauban for a telethon benefitting children with Leukemia
FARINET FUNAMBULE!* (Switzerland) High wire walk portraying the 19th century “Robin Hood of the Alps” culminated by the harvest of the world's smallest registered vineyard to benefit abused children
THE MONK'S SECRET LONGING* (New York City) High wire performance for the Regents' Dinner commencing the Centennial celebrations of the Cathedral St. John the Divine
1994 HISTORISCHER HOCHSEILLAUF* (Germany) Historic high wire walk on an inclined cable to celebrate the 1200th anniversary of the city of Frankfurt, viewed by 500,000 spectators and the subject of a live, nationally broadcast television special
1995 CATENARY CURVE (New York City) Humorous interlude during a conference on suspended structures given by the architect Santiago Calatrava
1996 ACT* (New York City) Medieval performance to celebrate the 25th anniversary of New York City's most innovative youth program
1996 CRESCENDO* (New York City) A theatrical, allegorical New Year's Eve performance on three different wires set in the nave of the Cathedral St. John the Divine as the farewell tribute to The Very Reverend James Parks Morton, Dean of the Cathedral, and his wife, Pamela
1999 MILLENNIUM COUNTDOWN WALK* (New York City) Inauguration of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History

New Millennium

2002 ARTS ON THE HIGH WIRE* (New York City) Benefit performance for The New York Arts Recovery Fund on an inclined wire at The Hammerstein Ballroom, with clown Bill Irwin and pianist Evelyne Crochet
2002 CRYSTAL PALACE (New York City) Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
CROSSING BROADWAY (New York City) Inclined walk, fourteen stories high, for THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN

Films

CONCERT IN THE SKY (Denver, 1983) Centre Productions, Inc., directed by Mark Elliot
HIGH WIRE (New York, 1984) Prairie Dog Productions, directed by Sandy Sissel
NIAGARA: MIRACLES, MYTHS AND MAGIC (Canada, 1986) in the role of Blondin,
Seventh Man Films for the IMAX System, directed by Kieth Merrill
TOUR ET FIL (France, 1989) FR3/Totem Productions, directed by Alain Hattet
FILMSTUNDE (Austria, 1991) Werner Herzog Productions, directed by Werner Herzog
PROFILE OF PHILIPPE PETIT (Washington, D.C., 1993) National Geographic Explorer Special
THE MAN ON THE WIRE (Germany, 1994) Documentary of the rigging and artistic preparations for Historischer Hochseillauf, Hessischer Rundfunk Television
HISTORISCHER HOCHSEILLAUF (Germany, 1994) Live broadcast of the walk, Hessischer Rundfunk Television, directed by Sacha Arnz
MONDO (France, 1995) Costa Gavras Productions, directed by Tony Gatlif
SECRETS OF THE LOST EMPIRES: THE INCAS (Peru, 1995) PBS/NOVA and BBC
co-production, directed by Michael Barnes

Books by Philippe Petit

TROIS COUPS (Herscher, Paris 1983)
ON THE HIGH WIRE (Random House, New York 1985)
FUNAMBULE (Albin Michel, Paris 1991)
TRAIT DU FUNAMBULISME (Actes Sud, Arles 1997)
BER MIR DER OFFENE HIMMEL (Urachhaus, Stuttgart 1998)
TRATTATO DI FUNAMBOLISMO (Ponte Alle Grazie, Milano 1999)
TO REACH THE CLOUDS (North Point Press/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York 2002)
(currently translated in 8 languages)
LART DU PICKPOCKET (Actes Sud, Arles 2006)

Lectures & Workshops

SYDNEY SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING, Sydney, Australia
BROOKLYN POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, Brooklyn, New York
JULLIARD SCHOOL OF THE PERFORMING ARTS, New York City
ECOLE NATIONALE SUPERIEURE DU CIRQUE, Chlons-sur-Marne, France
SCUOLA TEATRO DIMITRI, Verscio, Ticino, Switzerland
NIGHTWATCH, Cathedral St. John the Divine, New York City
OTTO FALKENBERG SCHULE, Munich, Germany
INSTITUT MEDICO EDUCATIF, Nanterre, France
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, New York City
AUDI INTERNATIONAL, New York City
INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR CREATIVITY & LEADERSHIP, Zermatt, Switzerland
TIMBER FRAMERS GUILD OF AMERICA, Ottawa, Canada
OBERLIN COLLEGE, Oberlin, Ohio
THE ROTARY CLUB OF BANGKOK, Thailand
THE EXPLORERS CLUB, New York City
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, New York City
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE, Lexington, Virginia
MASSACHSETTS CULTURAL COUNCIL, Boston, Massachusetts
FINAKI INTERNET TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE, Athens, Greece
THE DALTON SCHOOL, New York City
THE FINAKI INTERNET TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE, Ancona, Italy
THE ERIC CARLE PICTURE BOOK MUSEUM, Amherst, Massachusetts
FRANCE TELECOM, Les Arcs, France
FRANCE TELECOM, Cannes, France
SMITH COLLEGE, Northampton, Massachusetts
TORINO SPIRITUALITQUESTIONS TO GOD & MAN, Turin, Italy
WTC TRIBUTE CENTER, New York City

New Projects

CANYON WALK is a high wire opera, unique in the world: conceived, designed, rigged and performed by Philippe Petit. It is a high wire crossing of the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation Tribal Lands framed by the Painted Desert. The distance from the departure on the canyon rim to the arrival on a solitary mesa is 1200 feet; the depth of the canyon is 1600 feet. CANYON WALK will be the subject of a television program, broadcast globally, as well as a documentary about Philippe focusing on the months of preparations.

SYDNEY WALK is a crossing of Sydney Cove from the Sydney Opera House to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

EASTER ISLAND WALK is a walk on an inclined cable set in the volcanic landscape of the mysterious island; it is in homage to the fascinating culture of the Rapa Nui and their awe-inspiring giant stone statues known as Moai.

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